Ever met a guy you instantly clicked with simply because of his choice of music? Yep, that happened to me sometime in June. It was a cold Wednesday morning. The weather was drizzling. I walked into Hilton Hotel for a writing masterclass forum. The email invite said be seated by 8:00 am but I was running late already.
When I finally got to the room, only few people had arrived. Great, guess I’m not the only African timer around here, eh? I picked a seat next to this guy with a kinky afro that looked cool on him. We exchanged hellos and got into that awkwardness of meeting someone new. The rest of the guys in the room were busy on their phones or laptops waiting for the session to begin. When Kinky-Afro-Guy turned on his laptop, I spotted J. Cole as his wallpaper. You know what, anyone who listens to J. Cole is a winner, I don’t care what those Fetty Wap fans at the back say.
He listens to J. Cole a lot and that said something about his personality. It built some chat between us as we waited. Later I spotted a girl on his phone wallpaper. When I asked him who she was, he called her ‘my lady’. Told me they’d dated for a few months.
Well, Amigos, I introduce to you, our very first guest here! He shaved his hair though, read on.
By Mike Muthaka
You write better naked. You sleep better that way as well. In the first and only suit you own. And the good days are those ones that, you get up with a start, naked, with sentences dangling on your fingertips just waiting to be dropped on the page.
Monday last week was headed to be one of those days. You were lying in bed with the laptop balanced on your belly. It was raining in slants and water tapped your bedroom window in no particular rhythm. You were wearing nothing but socks, polishing up on a piece, you know, having a ball.
Monday morning was easy like Sunday morning.
But minutes after you had capped the piece, divorce papers were dropped in front of you. Kicked the day right in the teeth, and you could hear that ball you were having deflate. The glow of finally finishing a troubling piece was quickly being replaced by this dark gloomy cloud of confusion.
The news came tied to a phone call. If people were still using birds to send messages, you would have had a very angry bird in your room that day.
When you picked up, after the usual small talk, the reasons for the divorce were dutifully read to you. She said there was no compatibility anymore. Said she wasn’t really happy. Said your cluelessness was tiring. She said you’ve become too needy, clingy, and she needs a break. I think it’s better that way, she said.
“Yeah. Okay. If that’s what you want.” (That’s you sulking)
“Don’t you have anything to say to me?”
“Uh, all the best?” (cluelessness?)
Long story short, you got dumped. After the call, you sat up, stunned. You felt ashamed of your nakedness. Suddenly there was a breeze blowing. And you thought, what a bloody laugh, getting dumped in your birthday suit.
You thought, the end is nigh.
You thought, love is a dream sold to us in the movies.
You thought, fuck love.
You stepped off bed, put on a T-shirt and made your way to the fruit basket. You were craving an apple but all you got was a small banana. You quickly threw it down your throat, got into your cheap running shoes and stepped out.
You were absent minded for the most part. You ran with an absent mind that was moving faster than your legs. You had your earphones plugged in but you couldn’t hear a thing. All you could see in front of you was her face. Memories, whirling wildly at a spot between your ears and pushing water to your eyes.
That run, and a cold shower afterwards made you feel better. Relaxed. In control of things. But just for that day. You had convinced yourself that you could take this by the chin. But it all catches up when you’re not looking. And it knocks the wind out of you.
You remember that time you were out drinking. Just the two of you, it had been long since you watched each other drown in liquor. Long since you were alone, and even longer since you were together with no alcohol in between. Somehow it had become the unifying factor, and it scared you that maybe she could only love you when she was intoxicated.
She was perched up on the bar stool, slightly slouched on the counter overlooking the street. Her eyeliner had smudged a tad and her lipstick had slightly faded. It was your fault. You leaned in to kiss her when she wasn’t expecting. You never knew if she liked your self-imposed spontaneous spirit. Today she didn’t complain.
You were drinking beer. She was taking vodka.
It quickly got dark outside. And the street noises below became louder, so did the music in the bar. Time was sliding like a greased machine, and your head was felt light. A buzz that made you reach for the pack of cigarettes in your pocket.
“You had cigarettes?” She asks.
And you can’t tell if she’s excited about it or you’re about to be in the dog house again. You had shared a cigarette once before, and it appealed to you watching her do it. How she took it off your hands without asking and put it in her mouth, it spawned a small devil in you. But then one day you complained of chest pain and she made you promise not to smoke ever again.
You cooled it with the smoking for a while but bounced back to it a few weeks later. You kept it secret.
But now she didn’t seem to mind. The drink softened her. A side you almost never got to see in the time you spent together. But one you wish you had. You always felt like you never really knew her. She remained a mystery all that time. Or maybe she was right, maybe you really were clueless. And you never had any idea how love works. But she knew you. She could always see right through you.
You became too vulnerable around her.
Maybe that was what put out the fire. You became predictable. You lost your thrill factor, if you had one.
At some point her eyes seemed to edge outward, shiny like glass. Her face turned red and her lips were twitching. Her give away when she’s drunk. And then, slowly, her emotions took over and she narrated to you stories about past lovers. You were slightly bothered that she’d choose to talk about it now but you couldn’t object because you also needed the validation that you are way better.
She talks about them one by one.
She tells you about that one that they dated for two years. How young they were; how it meant to be them against the world, the dreams they shared, how happy she was. She tells you how bored she became and broke it off. And then she had a rebound, for the void. She tells you the rebound was no good, didn’t love her enough. She never trusted him. She talks about the rest, the odd ones who never materialized.
Neither of you spoke, not immediately. It had been long since you shared loud silence. She looked at you with a look you had seen only once before. The look she had the day you had your first big fight. She was scared, like she felt the end ambling towards you both. And you were scared that, after all was said and done, you could also end up as just another bar story.